A hanging in Waller County
The May 1, 1897, edition of the Houston Post pieced together reports of a hanging that occurred in Waller County, just outside Sunny Side.
"Dangling from the limbs of a large oak tree are the bodies of six negroes, limp and lifeless," the Post reported. "The scene of this horrible picture is one mile north of Sunnyside and sixteen miles from here."
The article goes in detail to describe the location of the tree. Who knows if it still exists?
"The large tree is on the public road from Sunnyside to Pattison and for years to come this tree will be pointed by passersby as a tree with the records of having held at one and the same time the bodies of six men executed by popular fury, commonly called 'Judge Lynch.'"
Of the six that were hanged, four were brothers and three were teenagers.
Fayette Rhoan, 21
Will Gates, 35
Louis Thomas, 20
Aaron Thomas, 13
Jim Thomas, 14
Benny Thomas, 15
The six were suspected in the death of Henry Daniels, his stepdaughter Marie Daniels, and a 7-year-old child.
So what led up to the killings?
On April 28, Daniels' Waller County home was burglarized. "Marie Daniels and the 7-year-old child were ravished and old man Daniels clubbed to death, trying to protect those in his charge."
The Post said the child was thrown into a well. Authorities noted her skull had been smashed. The other two were left in a house that was set on fire.
Local authorities, with the help of "bloodhounds from Steele's plantation" helped in finding the Thomas brothers.
The brothers confessed, the article reported, and they implicated others that were believed to be involved in the crime. The men were being held to await an examining trial, but a mob surprised the officers and took the men to the oak tree. A seventh person, Willie Williams, was also taken by the mob, but his whereabouts were unknown.
"As far as can be learned, the mob was composed of white and black men, with the colored element largely predominating.
"Tonight, there is calm after the storm and public opinion is almost universal that if the right parties were apprehended no harm was done."
Apparently, the suspects had previously known Daniels; it did not appear to be a random crime.
The Post said that a Brenham man had been robbed months earlier of $65 (about $1518 in today's dollars). Of that, $30 ($700) was given to Henry Daniels.
"Daniels spent the money, and on Sunday evening last the four Thomas
boys, according to their confessions yesterday, decided to either collect their $30 or kill Daniels."
Word of what had happened in Waller County made its way to Houston by passenger train. Many of the passengers said there had been a great deal of commotion in Hempstead over the hanging.
The article concluded:
"The white citizens of Hempstead, it is said, are upholding the negroes who did the hanging."